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Hastings ratepayers are outlaying $55,000 for the artworks created to celebrate the 100th birthday of the earthquake-prone Hawke’s Bay Opera House.

Eleven artists have been commissioned to produce works to cover 11 panels that will span the 103-metres of safety fence that surrounds the Opera House and adjacent Municipal Building complex, erected after the buildings were declared earthquake-prone and then closed early last year.

Works by 10 of the artists represents a different decade of the 100 years, while the 11th artist’s works covers special highlights.

A family-focused celebration with an early 1900s theme and the unveiling of the art will be held on Sunday October 18, the exact day of the first performance 100 years earlier.

The fence itself cost $29,500 to build – which council says was more cost effective than hiring the safety equipment.

Of the $55,000 for the artworks, council said the two major costs were the printing of the panels from the original art work ($30,000) and a stipend to the artists ($25,000).

The stipend of $25,000 was less than what the artists would normally for commissioned works, council said.

“[We are] very lucky that the artists are being so very generous with their time and skills. The amount they are receiving in no way reflects their skills, what they would normally receive for a commissioned work especially of this size, or their time,” a council spokeswoman said.

The work on the fence will be digital copies of original works done by “nationally notable” artists “ with strong connections to Hawke’s Bay”, including Martin Popplewell, Freeman White, John Eaden, Kate MacKenzie, Mauricio Benega, Cinzah, Fane Flaws, Jo Blogg, Timo Rannali, Desna Whaanga-Schollum and Adrian Thornton.

Council says it will try and recoup some of the costs by reproducing limited editions of the artworks for sale, reproduce smaller versions for things like calendars and postcards, and auctioning the originals.

In a statement on Tuesday, Deputy Mayor Cynthia Bowers said given the place of the Opera House in the district’s history, some way needed to be found to mark the centenary.

“Despite the current uncertainty around its future direction, 100 years of great performances and memories can’t be allowed to slip by unmarked.”

Bringing the opera house and municipal buildings up to strength could cost $18m, according to council. Valued at $12.32million in 2012, the value of the buildings has been written down by nearly $10m since they were closed last March. 

The special 100th birthday celebration on October 18 will be held in the Opera House Plaza and the street from 11am to 2pm. Iit will feature children’s games from yesteryear, vintage cars, black and white movies, music by The Dixielanders, and a special opera house birthday cake.

Timber by EMSIEN-3 LTD